Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. File picture: ANA
Cape Town - Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba is in a tight corner over the saga surrounding the Guptas’ citizenship in South Africa - days after returning to the portfolio.

The saga over the citizenship of some members of the controversial Gupta family has marred Gigaba’s return to the department, just over a week after he was reappointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

On Wednesday, Gigaba was the subject of severe attacks in Parliament over his alleged links to the Guptas, after he failed to pitch up to answer questions over the status of the family.

MPs were also incensed by what they saw as glaring inconsistencies in Gigaba’s version of the Guptas’ citizenship.

Read: Gigaba is a pathological liar - EFF

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This as the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks clashed in Parliament over the delays in the investigations and arrests of those involved in state capture cases, at the centre of which are allegations that the Guptas used their proximity to former president Jacob Zuma to loot state coffers.

While angry MPs were gnashing their teeth over Gigaba’s last-minute no-show, his director-general Mkuseli Apleni tried to clear up confusion over the citizenship status of the Guptas.

Gigaba had on Tuesday told a media briefing that none of the Gupta brothers are South African citizens, adding that Atul and Ajay both have permanent residency, while Ajay Gupta’s wife, mother and two children were granted citizenship.

But the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) on Wednesday insisted that Atul Gupta was on the country’s voters roll, raising questions over Gigaba’s statements.

Speaking in Centurion where the IEC briefed the media over its readiness for this weekend’s voter registration campaign, vice-chairperson Terry Tselane said: “We can confirm that a certain Atul Gupta is properly registered at a primary school in Saxonwold (Joburg).

“In order for a person to register, you have to be a South African citizen and you have to be in possession of either a barcoded ID or a smartcard,” he pointed out.

Apleni sought to clarify the issue at a hastily convened media briefing, stating that Atul and Rajesh Gupta were indeed naturalised South African citizens, but that their sibling Ajay was refused naturalisation because he had not renounced his Indian citizenship.

Only Ajay Gupta holds a permanent South African residency.

Apleni said Atul Gupta’s citizenship was never the subject of an internal probe by Home Affairs, because he had been granted citizenship in 2002, having arrived in South Africa in 1994. Rajesh “Tony” Gupta was naturalised in July 2006.

Ajay Gupta had been naturalised in 2013, a ruling he appealed, citing the family’s investments in South Africa and the number of people employed by their companies.

The department had instituted an internal probe over a letter which had surfaced on social media last year stating, in part, that five members of the Gupta family had their applications for naturalisation rejected at first, but they were later approved after being “doctored” by Gigaba.

Apleni said the last part of the letter should have stated that the family would be able to reapply on December 23, 2017 instead of the 2015 date.

For this reason, the department had appointed a forensics company to investigate the forged letter.

Gigaba was minister of home affairs between May 2014 and March last year.

But opposition parties were up in arms over Gigaba’s absence to answer questions on the naturalisation of the Guptas, with EFF MPs calling him a liar.

Speaker Baleka Mbete told the House that Gigaba had sent a note that he would not be attending the session on Wednesday because he was ill and had gone to see a doctor.

This infuriated EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

“Minister Gigaba is a pathological liar,” charged Ndlozi, while protesting the minister’s unavailability to be grilled on the matter.

Mbete insisted Ndlozi withdraw the remark.

But in typical EFF fashion, Ndlozi refused to be cowed and was booted from the House.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu intervened, telling Mbete: “If you are going to protect liars like that you are going to get into serious trouble.”

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said that despite commitments from the chief whips forum earlier that all ministers would be present, Gigaba had failed to pitch up.

John Steenhuisen, the DA’s chief whip, said they were also informed that Gigaba would be available to answer questions, but he was not in the House.

The opposition parties said they wanted Gigaba to answer their questions at the next session.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises has agreed to an extension for Gigaba to appear before it on allegations that he helped the Guptas to capture state-owned enterprises.

Gigaba was scheduled to appear before the committee on Tuesday, but asked for 10 days in order to prepare for his appearance before MPs.

He was now expected to be in the hot seat on Tuesday.

Political Bureau